Rodney Falls (and Hardy Falls), Washington

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The upper portion of Rodney Falls in September 2017

When I visited Portland, Oregon, this past September, wildfires showed up in the Columbia River Gorge. They were intense enough that many of the waterfalls in that area were off limits. Some of them are just now coming back to life in late December. So I decided to head to the less-visited Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.

There are a number of waterfalls on the Washington side, though they’re not as well advertised or always as accessible. Woodburn Falls and Pothole Falls are both further west in the city of Camas. Rodney Falls and Hardy Falls are about 20 miles east in Beacon Rock State Park.

The hike to both falls is on the medium/moderate side. It’s about a 2.5 mile round-trip, but it is consistently uphill on the way to the falls. As I hiked along, there were remnants of ash from the other side of the gorge! It makes you realize how forest fires could travel even across a rather large river. The hike is not difficult to follow until you get very near the end. And then it’s just a bit confusing about where you should really focus your effort and attention.

I would usually separate posts about these two falls, but Hardy Falls isn’t worth a separate post. There is a spur that leads to an “overlook” of Hardy Falls, but it was almost impossible to see the falls due to plant growth. It might be a better view in the winter months when leaves aren’t on the trees. I’ve read that there is a way to get to the base of Hardy Falls, but it seems rather precarious to me. It’s a 90′ waterfall, and it wasn’t clear how you’d get to the base. I thought following some of the trails would lead me closer, but they didn’t.

If I were to go in the summer, I would instead focus most of my time and energy on Rodney Falls, which is a bit further upstream along the same stream. At 80′ overall, it’s not as tall as Hardy Falls, but it is much easier to view. The biggest drop is approximately 40′ if I understand correctly, and while you can’t get directly next to the falls, you can get very close. It’s actually a very cool view.

Directions:

  1. From Vancouver, WA, drive east along WA-14 to Beacon Rock State Park.
  2. Pass the ranger station to your left, and then take a left onto a road signed for camping/hiking. This road will climb uphill.
  3. You’ll want to go to the parking area for the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead. There is a fee to visit the park, and you can pay it at a self-service station.
  4. From there, start your hike along the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead. It’s about 1.25 miles to the waterfalls. The trail does continue on to Hamilton Mountain.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Height: Hardy Falls: 90′, Reagan Falls: 80′
Length of Hike: 2.5 miles roundtrip

Where in the World is Hardy Falls and Reagan Falls?

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Can you see Hardy Falls? It’s actually pretty tall!

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Woodburn Falls, Washington

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Woodburn Falls in October 2013

I visited Woodburn Falls over two years, so I had to try and remember where this waterfall was located and how to possibly arrive at the falls. Oddly enough, I did have a pretty clear recollection that the falls was on some spur trail at a park.

If you are in Portland, Oregon, there are many amazing waterfalls near the city. There are also a few waterfalls near Portland on the other side of the Columbia River in Washington. One park in Camas, Lacamas Lake Regional Park, has 3 smaller waterfalls in the park’s boundaries. I posted information about Pothole Falls previously. I honestly found that waterfall (and Lower Falls) by wandering next to Lacamas Creek (which is relatively easy to find). Woodburn Falls isn’t on the main creek, but instead on a different creek. It’s got its own separate side-trail that leads to the falls from the main trail.

I found it to be relatively easy to find. I think there were very clear signs posted that helped find the falls. And while there wasn’t a huge amount of water flowing, it still was actually pretty good for October. Woodburn Falls also happens to be relatively calm and quiet since it’s off on its own. I don’t think there were any other people at the falls when I reached my destination.

Directions:

  1. From I-205, take WA-14 East toward Camas.
  2. Exit WA-14 onto 6th Avenue.  Continue along 6th Avenue.
  3. Turn left onto NE Garfield Street (WA-500). You will veer left, and then turn right right, continuing on WA-500 (now known as NE Everett Street).
  4. There is a parking area on Everett Street, and there is also one just a short distance further up along NE 35th Avenue. The parking area on Everett Street is clearly signed, and ends up being an easier starting point. There is more parking at the 35th Avenue spot, but it is a little more difficult to determine where to begin. The park does have some of the best signs/maps I have seen, so follow the signs if in doubt. This map helps greatly.

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Length of Hike: ~ 1 mile one-way
Height: 15′

Where in the World is Woodburn Falls?

Weisendanger Falls, Oregon

Weisendanger Falls in September 2015

I first visited Multnomah Falls seven years ago or so. I visited the falls later in the day after visiting a number of other waterfalls in the area, and doing a number of hikes, some of them longer than I expected. I knew there were other waterfalls upstream from Multnomah Falls, and really wanted to see them. (I often try to hit many falls in a day.)

At that time, I don’t think I really understood what it meant to climb approximately 600′ or so in a matter of 1 mile. It is truly an uphill battle. I’m not really sure there’s any point where it flattens out (for more than 2 or 3 feet). The first try, I got maybe 2/3 of the way up and gave up. I didn’t have enough energy to go the rest of the way. I was disappointed, but too tired to really significantly care.

I did visit Multnomah Falls a few years later, but didn’t even think of going up. So when I arrived in Portland about two weeks ago, I had some time during the evening. I didn’t want to drive extremely far to see a waterfall, so I figured I might try the hike to Weisendanger Falls again. I hadn’t done much during the day except sit on a plane.

This time, I was successful. It was still difficult, I was panting much of the way up, and my legs did feel sore after. I think one of the things that helped this time were the markers indicating which switchback I was on. I don’t remember these being there last time… There are 11 switchbacks. It may help to know that you’ve reached the top at switchback 9. The other two are downhill toward Weisendanger Falls (or the other viewpoint for Multnomah Falls). The final portion of the hike to Weisendanger Falls is actually very enjoyable. It was rather warm for this early September day (in the mid-to-upper 80’s), and the downhill portion was much cooler as it was isolated, keeping some of the heat out. It was definitely worth the hike to see the falls!

Directions:

  1. Take the exit off of I-84 toward the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Trail, and follow the road. It’s pretty hard to miss Multnomah Falls. The parking for the falls is actually right in the middle of the road.
  2. From the parking area, start heading toward the bridge that crosses Multnomah Creek. This is a uphill climb to begin.
  3. After crossing the bridge, you’ll have a 1 mile uphill hike. This is the part that’s tough. Once you reach switchback 9, you’ll head downhill.
  4. After reaching that switchback and heading downhill, you’ll reach a split. If you head right (indicated by a sign), you’ll reach the Multnomah Falls upper viewpoint. If you head left along trail 441, that will lead toward Weisendanger Falls. Even if you miss this first left, there’s a left later on.
  5. It’s about 0.4 miles further from the switchback to Weisendanger Falls. If you continue uphill beyond that, you’ll reach Ecola Falls.

Accessibility: 2/10 (strenuous)
Length of Hike: 2.8 miles round-trip
Height: 50′

Where in the World is Weisendanger Falls?

Fairy Falls, Oregon

Fairy Falls in May 2010

One of the main attractions along the Columbia River Gorge is Wahkeena Falls. The 242′ falls is really stunning. What is not widely as advertised is Fairy Falls, which is upstream from Wahkeena Falls. Now let’s think about this…You start at the main road, the Historic Columbia River Highway. There’s a steady hike uphill to get to the most photogenic portion of Wahkeena Falls. If you continue along this trail, you’ll at some point find yourself at Fairy Falls. But this requires more steady hiking uphill. In just over a mile, you will have hiked up almost 500′ of elevation, so your legs are little to feel a little burn!

But it’s well worth it! The hike is not so impossibly difficult, and the falls are wildly photogenic. Most of the waterfalls in Oregon are surrounded by GREEN, and this waterfall is no exception. The ferns really do create an almost fairy-like setting.

Directions:

  1. From I-84, get onto the Historic Columbia River Highway.
  2. Look for the Wahkeena Falls parking lot as you’re driving along the highway. It will be to the west of the Multnomah Falls parking area.
  3. Start hiking up the paved trail to the viewpoint of Wahkeena Falls.
  4. You’ll cross the bridge over Wahkeena Creek, and continue along this path to Fairy Falls. It may seem like a long distance while you’re hiking uphill, but the way back down is easier!

Accessibility: 3/10 (moderate/strenuous)
Height: 20′
Length of Hike: 1.6 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Fairy Falls?

Lancaster Falls, Oregon

Lancaster Falls in May 2010

Starting at Starvation Creek State Park’s parking area, there are three waterfalls in a line (4 including Starvation Creek Falls, which is left from the parking area). The first is Cabin Creek Falls. The second is Hole in the Wall Falls. The final waterfall on the trail (at least before you starting climbing uphill) is Lancaster Falls.

Lancaster Falls is much taller than it appears, but it is almost impossible to get a view of the portion of the falls upstream. If I remember correctly, to get to the falls, you do have more of an uphill climb. Also, you may notice from the falls crosses the trail, though you don’t have to cross the creek if you just want to get a photograph from the left. The view from the right was impressive.

Directions:

  1. From I-84, heading EAST, exit at the sign for Starvation Creek State Park. It’s 15 miles from the more commonly known falls west of this park.
  2. As you pull off, the parking area for the park is directly in front of you. There are a number of spaces, but they do fill up quickly.
  3. From the parking area, head west along the trail that follows I-84. You’ll actually be pretty close to I-84 at points. The first waterfall you’ll encounter heading west is Cabin Creek Falls. The second falls is Hole in the Wall Falls.  The final falls is Lancaster Falls.

Accessibility: 6/10 (moderate)
Height: 303′
Length of Hike: 1.6 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Lancaster Falls?

Starvation Creek Falls, Oregon

Starvation Creek Falls in May 2010

Starvation Creek Falls is another beautiful waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge. It’s found in Starvation Creek State Park, which is a more distant from Portland than some of the other waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. It was still pretty popular, though there seemed to be more limited parking.

Starvation Creek State Park is the great starting point for at least three other waterfalls (Cabin Creek Falls, Hole in the Wall Falls, and Lancaster Falls). Starvation Creek Falls is the easiest of the falls to visit, and it is only a short walk from the parking area. The other falls can be visited in a 1 mile one-way hike. Overall, the four falls make for a very enjoyable time, and you can get great views of the Columbia River from the park.

Directions:

  1. From I-84, heading EAST, exit at the sign for Starvation Creek State Park. It’s 15 miles (?) distance from the more commonly known falls west of this park.
  2. As you pull off, the parking area for the park is directly in front of you. There are a number of spaces, but they do fill up quickly.
  3. From the parking area, head left on the paved trail to the falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 227′
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Starvation Creek Falls?

Hole in the Wall Falls, Oregon

Hole in the Wall Falls in May 2010

Starvation Creek State Park is a little further east than some of the more popular waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge, and yet you should definitely visit it if you’re in the area. In Starvation Creek State Park, you can see at least four waterfalls along a one mile (one-way) hike. It’s a relatively easy hike (though it does get steeper near the end).

Starvation Creek Falls is right near the parking area. Cabin Creek Falls is the first along the hike, and creates a few difficulties. Hole in the Wall Falls, though, is very easy to view. As you’re hiking along, you’ll cross the creek with a wooden bridge, and from that area, you can get a great view of this pretty impressive waterfall. From this angle, there were at least two drops visible, and there might be more above. As with many of the other waterfalls in Oregon, the moss-covered rocks only enhance the beauty of the falls!

Directions:

  1. From I-84, heading EAST, exit at the sign for Starvation Creek State Park. It’s 15 miles from the more commonly known falls west of this park.
  2. As you pull off, the parking area for the park is directly in front of you. There are a number of spaces, but they do fill up quickly.
  3. From the parking area, head west along the trail that follows I-84. You’ll actually be pretty close to I-84 at points. The first waterfall you’ll encounter heading west is Cabin Creek Falls.  The second falls is Hole in the Wall Falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 96′
Length of Hike: 1.2 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Hole in the Wall Falls?